When a car manufacturer decides to produce a new model, the styling, or
design, of the new car is one of a number of factors that need to be
The first decision to be made concerns the market category that the new
into - will the car be a small hatchback, family saloon or
luxury executive model? Once this choice has been made, along with engineering
and packaging decisions such as whether to use front- or rear-wheel drive, the
details can be worked out.
In earlier days, it was simply a
of building a
styling a body to fit it. With today's space- and energy-efficient cars, the
look is now part of the
Once the design is finalized, there is likely to be a time lag of about
three to five years before the finished car appears in the showroom which means
that the designers have to forecast the future trends. If the new car looks too
dramatically different, the public may take a long time to get used to it and
not buy it in enough quantity.
On the other hand, it must not look too old-fashioned as soon as it is
announced. The designer's freedom of choice is much greater if a completely new
car is being created, rather than an existing model being face-lifted to give
it a new look.
If the car is going to be an all-new 'clean sheet' design, the
manufacturer's team of stylists will prepare drawings to show their ideas for
the new models. At this stage of the exercise there may be a few dozen
different sketches which will be evaluated to see how suitable they are for
When these decisions have been taken and the choice has been narrowed down
to one or two designs,
models are made in clay. This method of model
making, which was introduced by General
, is sometimes still used even in
today's computer-controlled design studios. The advantage of using clay is that
it is easy to add or remove small amounts of clay to make detail adjustments to
Next, a full-sized clay model is made and painted to resemble a real car as
closely as possible. Some manufacturers have styling `clinics' to gauge public
reaction to the car. Some may also commission full-size plastic models to give
a more realistic impression.
Once the manufacturers have finalized the design for the new model and
decided to go ahead, it will be planned in detail for mass-production. This is
where computers come into play because designing cars, like many other areas of
car production, has been considerably influenced by computer techniques.
The modern method
A car designer with a sufficiently powerful computer and the appropriate
software can design a new car on screen, make it any colour, and rotate it so
that it can be viewed from any angle. The computing power needed to do all this
is considerable. One program that creates the colour on the computer picture of
the car uses tens of times as much memory as the average home computer
Once the designer is satisfied, the computer can feed coded information to a
machine which will cut out a three-dimensional, solid version of what
has been designed on the screen. This method is much quicker than the
traditional process of drawing by hand and then fashioning a clay model.
The computer can also be programmed to act as a wind tunnel so that the
shape on the screen can be tested for aerodynamic efficiency. Other computer
design techniques can analyze the strength of any body design and can predict
the behaviour of the car in the event of an
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As well as replacing a door because it has become rusted or been damaged in
, you may also need to do this job before a respray. With the doors
off, the door pillars and inside surfaces can then be resprayed properly.